With the top two tiers of English football taking a break this afternoon, fans could do worse than cast an eye towards the tightest promotion and relegation battles in the country.
In the middle of yet another international break, it is easy to bemoan the lack of domestic football taking place today. With the top two English leagues on hiatus, too many fans will assume there is nothing to do but wait for normal service to resume next Saturday.
And yet the truth is the two most exciting league competitions in the country have full programmes this afternoon.
For a promotion chase that sees the top seven teams separated by just six points, look no further than League One, where leaders Doncaster – on 69 points – are just a few bad results from slipping below the play-off places.
While if a fight for survival is more your thing, have a look at League Two, where just three points separate the bottom six. With the bottom two sides relegated from the Football League, teams from 24th right up to 16th will be desperate for points this afternoon.
With the Premier League all but wrapped up, and the Championship still likely to be Cardiff’s despite their annual jitters, anyone calling League One at this stage is basing it on nothing more than the toss of a coin – a seven-sided coin to be precise. And even that may be wrong because the most in-form team in the league are Walsall, who are currently ninth but won’t be giving up on automatic promotion just yet.
Compare that to the Premier League, where leaders Manchester United are 20 points ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea. This year at least, insurmountable gaps don’t exist in League One.
Fans of Doncaster, Brentford, Swindon, Sheffield United, Bournemouth, Tranmere and Yeovil will all still be dreaming of the league championship. And the three teams just three points further back may still wonder.
When too often football is accused of being predictable, boring, the same clubs enjoying the same success, our third tier is giving us something different. And we would be wise to pay attention.
So next time you moan because there is nothing to do on Saturday apart from read what happened the night before, look a little further afield. The football world doesn’t stop just because the top two tiers do.
You may find a few stories of interest, a few games with plenty still to play for, and if nothing else, the way things are going the last day will be crazy.
Who do you think will be celebrating promotion from League One come May? And who will lose the fight to remain in League Two?
image: © bevkevtrev